Job sites are dirty

February 23, 2012 — 15 Comments

Yes – job sites are dirty, although maybe I should have said job sites are ‘messy’ so that I could limit the number of visits I get from people looking for “dirty sites”. Trying to manipulate the internet is tricky business and best left up to professionals – which I am decidedly not. Well, I am a professional, just not in the subject of dirty websites (dang it, I just did it again!!).

It has been a long time since I gave a proper progress update on our modern infill project … so I am going to give you an update while explaining why there hasn’t been any updates. (Yes, this post will be as tricky as that last sentence implies). The short version is that while a lot of work has been getting done, I don’t have a lot to show for it. Everyone who is in the business knows what I mean but for those of you who don’t, this post is for you.


dirty jobsite exterior

The front yard is completely torn up as the concrete form work is set into place for the landscape retaining walls, the garage ramp, and the entry stairs. The picture above is a small portion of the front yard … see all those boards laid upon the ground? That’s so that you can walk (generally) from the street to the entryway of the house without having to navigate a lot of messy, dangerous crap. It doesn’t make for a pretty picture – let’s just say that I keep another pair of shoes in my car so that the bottom half of my leather shoes aren’t encapsulated in orange mud.


dirty jobsite - exterior film

The walls have been the focus of most of the interior work. Lots of tape, bed and floating – followed by painting (3 coats at least). All of the walls (with the exception of some utility type rooms) have a level 5 finish – which means the entire wall is covered in drywall mud and then sanded down. Since this is a large house, this process has taken months. The process creates a lot of dust so as a result, anything that has a finish other than paint, gets covered up with plastic and paper. This process is not very conducive to “interesting and informative” picture taking. In the image above, you can see that there is still a bit of protective coating on the sliding door to the right … imagine entire rooms that look like this … [shudder] it makes me think that someone who has an outstanding gambling debt would be quite nervous if asked if they want to “tour” the project site. (*wink*)


dirty jobsite - blankets

This is obviously a padded blanket – why and how it has come to rest in this peculiar position in this particular location is a bit of a mystery. My assumption is that it is used by the steel fabricator who is putting together the stainless steel and concrete staircase that I happened to be standing on when I took this photo … at least he’ll know where it is since everybody walking by the project can see it.


dirty jobsite - painting supplies

This is the main level dining room – aka “paint storage/staging area 11b“. What isn’t covered in plastic is covered in heavy-duty butcher paper (i.e. all the floors). The large format tiles have been in place for months but as soon as they are down they get covered up – that’s why there aren’t any photos of the tile floors.


dirty jobsite - painting supplies

This is the ground level apartment – aka “paint storage/ staging area 23f“. Some of the finished millwork is in place and I just so happened by the job site at a time between “installation” and “protection”. All the millwork is either painted or rift cut vertical white oak. That contraption in the bottom right-hand corner is a gas burner to heat the space and speed up the drying process of all the drywall mud. Since these are the type spaces that receive a level 5 finish – and it’s the beginning of our rainy season – the walls need to dry completely before the next coat of mud goes on … and repeat this process over and over and over.

It’s a time intensive process.


dirty jobsite - plastic to protect millwork

This is not the ethereal mood room or the wise guy whack space – just a look at what most rooms have looked like over the past few months.

Plastic protection is covering  e  v  e  r  y  t  h  i  n  g


dirty jobsite - supplies

This is the main room – you can see that lighting trim rings have started to get installed into the ceiling – and to the right, you can catch a glimpse of “paint storage/staging area 11b” from the main dining room. What I didn’t notice when I took this picture last week was that the tile mosaic around the fireplace has been removed. I would imagine that is because Ann Fietta (the Italian mosaic artist) arrived in town for the next two weeks to finish the installation. The panels were previously installed just to keep them protected from job site damage, as well as keep them from walking off the job site.


dirty jobsite - millwork trim and prep

This is one of the rear bedroom – aka “millwork staging prep/paint area 352bb“. See, not anything really interesting to look at other than the fact that everything is protected from dust and debris.



dirty jobsite - electrical

‘The Bridge” – (aka – “light fixture staging area 729fy”)

On the left hand side will be a continuous glass floor … which is currently being covered up by plywood.

Are you feeling the pattern yet?


dirty jobsite - tile and trim

This is the Master bathroom where one of the 3 mosaics is installed. On the floor – butcher paper … on the right hand side – plastic. Yes, there is millwork and tile and counter top, sink, faucet, etc. under all that protection but I can’t take a presentable picture and I’m certainly not going to ask the contractor to pull off all this stuff so that I can take a pretty picture … I’m sure his response to such a request would find me “relocated” to the port-o-john.


So there you have it – a progress post about why there isn’t really a progress post. The project – if you can believe it, should be ready for the client to take up residency in 10 more weeks. That means that there will be a lot of things I can focus in on and feature here on the site which is good for me and hopefully for you as well.

One other item that helped motivate me into preparing this particularly uninteresting post is to show that all residential projects get to a point where despite the fact that there is a lot of work happening, it simply doesn’t look that way. This condition always happens once in the beginning when site work and foundations are being worked on, once in the middle when electrical and plumbing rough-ins are happening, and finally towards the end when walls are getting prepped and painted. These periods seem to go on forever and I can almost always count on a phone call from the client asking me “why is this part taking so long?”. I could say “it just does” (because it’s true) but the main reason is that these are the phases that will have the most impact on subsequent phases – meaning, if you don’t get this part right, there is hell to pay down the road.

Take your time, don’t rush, and do it right the first time. Fixing a misaligned wall because your foundation is off is not the sort of problem you just “fix” once the concrete gets poured. Getting the wall smooth and level is considerably harder when there is furniture and paintings in the way. Adding an electrical plug when the walls are open is as easy as saying “right there” – but once everything is closed up? Not so much.

It’s cheaper this way too.




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  • @erik_jens

    Loved this post Bob. The house is looking amazing.  I think this is often the most fun part of the construction process because of all the critical timing of things coming together.   I can see a truly museum quality home that is perfectly livable and warm as well.  The elongated spaces in this house make it fun.  Looking forward to the wrap-up posts.

  • Guest

    i would hire you for the sole reason that you are intelligent enough to have a pair of job site shoes (i would hope boots) in your car.  
     I love the architects in their black shoes with gyp dust all over them and their black trousers…hilarious.

  • architectrunnerguy

    Project’s looking great Bob.

    And a sure sign of a well run job, not to mention a job where the contractor has high standards, is a clean job. Some of my best contractors have subfloors that computer chips could be built upon!


  • In my 26 years as an architect I have had a few general contractors that keep the job site as clean a the BMW factory. If I get a chance to recommend a general I always recommend them because they are also the best contractors.

  • Abel H


    Great overview of one of your site visits.  As a project manager for an architecture firm,
    I know being able to get out of the office and watch as the construction
    materials start to go up is a great feeling. 
    Finding issues and or dealing with setbacks on the job site, is a totally
    different subject.

    If I remember
    correctly you included a section detail of “the bridge” area in an
    earlier post.  Sure is nice being able to
    see the construction drawings starting to take shape.  Can’t wait to see future posts of the
    construction progress.

  • Thanks for the update Bob, the project is looking great – can’t wait to see the final product! As uninteresting as they may be to some, your pictures tell an important story about the amount of dirt, dust and general mess it takes to make a finished product look great. One big mess is better than many small messes, especially after the residents have moved in.

  • Bob – nice post.  I get where you’re coming from – re: the progress that’s hardly noticeable to the naked eye…  I am handling CA for an elementary school and when I tour the job site it’s fascinating to see the progress; but then when I get back to the office and look at the photos I took – comparing them to the last visit – I always end up thinking it looks like not much has changed.  To someone who is not there in person, it would look like nothing was happening.

  • TALV58

    Great post Bob and as a builder I know exactly where you are coming from.

    • this sort of falls into the  “give me patience right now” sort of phase. Important step and an unavoidable part of the process – however slow and boring it may be.

      • TALV58

        Ah yes. Progresses seems to die and then it all comes together as everything is completed. Clients at this point are usually asking- so how much longer will you be?

        • everything is scheduled to wrap up by the end of April – seems too soon to be true but it is.


  • Bob,  This is great!  A lot of what you showed was mess, like the paint cans 23F.  Those just go with building!  You mentioned some dirty stuff also, like sanding the various coats of drywall mud!

    What does the contractors do to keep this mess within the scope of construction rather than leaving it for the homeowner to deal with?

    • The homeowner should NEVER have to deal with this mess. This is completely the responsibility of the contractor. When he turns the house over to the owner, it will be immaculate.

      A lot of the steps taken now to protect the work are for the contractors benefit – certainly in his interest. On this project, there is one particular guy who has been on site full time (the “get it done” guy) and whenever he doesn’t have a specific task to do, he cleans … non-stop cleaning almost. Any one of these spaces on any particular day is almost spotless, but that only lasts a day or two before it gets dirty again. That’s the nature of construction.

  • EnergyVanguard

    Oh, man, you’re making me nostalgic for the good old days when I was building a house.

    • and to think I get to do something like this almost every day! I suppose that’s why I am more interested to get past this particular part and get to the finish materials – can’t wait to show you some of whats going to be in this place!

      Thanks Allison-